Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Spring Training 2024 NRI Disposition


Derek Law was with us so briefly i couldn’t find a picture of him in a nats uniform. Photo via

In an annual tradition that, unfortunately for the likely record of the team, seems to be pretty popular with the current incarnation of the Nationals, as we approach the end of spring training its time to start naming Non Roster Invitees (NRIs) to the 40-man/26-man active roster because they’ve made the team. This post continues the tradition of looking at the NRIs the team had this year and talking about how they fared.

Here’s past posts on the same topic by year: 2023, 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015.

So, who were the NRIs this year? We actually didn’t have that many, initially announcing on 2/15/24 a list of just 11 players (as compared to the cattle calls of 30+ NRIs of years’ past). Now, eventually we added a few others of note, as we always do throughout the spring, and apologies if i missed some (I’m not counting the slew of minor leaguers that were temporarily ‘assigned to Washington’ as NRIs), but here was the list of NRIs all told.

By position:

  • Starters: Davies
  • Righty Relievers: Bleier, Gsellman, J.Barnes, M.Barnes, Law, Perdomo
  • Lefty Relievers: La Sorsa
  • Catchers: Lindsley, Pineda
  • Infielders: Yepez, Baker, Diaz, House, Lipscomb
  • Outfielders: Crews, Wood, Hassell, Rutherford, Winker, Rosario, Blankenhorn,

When the Nats announced the 26-man opening day roster, we had a slew of NRIs who made the team.. Here’s the 2024 Opening day NRIs to make roster and the circumstances behind each:

  • Matt Barnes: Signed on 2/17/24, just after the initial Nats announcement, and who outpitched some other Nats relievers during spring and made the team. He was Boston’s closer in 2021, but now will slot in as a 6th/7th inning guy. Not a bad pedigree to have, and could be useful if he can keep his ERA down as a trade piece mid-season.
  • Eddie Rosario earned a spot on the team ahead of Call and Young, somewhat surprisingly, and gets a chance to rebound a little bit. He was basically a starter for Atlanta last year and wasn’t bad; 100 ops figure and 20 homers for a playoff team. How was he a MLFA? crazy. Anyway, he’ll slot in as starting LF, while Young returns to AAA despite his performance last year. Call rockets to the top of my “next guy to get cut” list, now that he’s seemingly 7th out of 7 outfielders on the 40-man with a slew of OF prospects rising fast.
  • Jesse Winker was an all star two years ago when he put up a scathing 143 OPS season, can play a little RF, and probably mixes in with Meneses into the DH. He’s all lefty. I wonder who actually starts between him and Rosario; Winker has better up-side and is younger, but Rosario was better in 2023.
  • Derek Law won the last bullpen spot, beating out a couple of other of NRIs and some of our bullpen holdovers from 2023.

Now for some discussion on a few of the players who did NOT make the team as NRIs ( by category)

  • Starters: Davies: was given full opportunity to go head to head with Trevor Williams for the 5th starter spot and did not earn it. Released on 3/22/24 with a few days to go in Spring when it became clear.
  • Righty Relievers: some of the veteran FA MLFAs/NRIs like Perdomo, Bleier, Gsellman, and Jacob Barnes competed and lost out to others. Perdomo was released on 3/24/24, probably because he was going to refuse the AAA assignment. The others remain to be seen whether or not they take the assignment to AAA. Jacob Barnes in particular pitched really well, but seems to have lost out in a h2h competition with Matt Barnes (no relation).
  • Lefty Relievers: La Sorsa was probably never really in the mix to beat out Robert Garcia, but when Ferrer hurt his back the chance was there. We picked him up on Waivers last year and he’s likely to be a solid option in 2024.
  • Catchers: neither LIndsley or Pineda were really in the mix to make the team, especially Pineda, who we just snuck through waivers and now can keep off the 40-man but in the system. You always need extra catchers in spring training.
  • Infielders: House the obvious top-end prospect, but the Nats MO isn’t to give opening day spots to these guys when you can bury them for a little while to get a year. Repeat this for Wood and Hassell later on. Baker and Lipscomb are lesser heralded prospects, but both seem like they’ve got a future with this team. Lipscomb was the last guy cut, really pushing for a spot at the expense of Rule5 guy Nunez, or maybe even the lackadasical Luis Garcia. So you can put Lipscomb on the short list of guys who are probably coming up soon. Yepez and Diaz were in the category of “big bats off the bench” competition and seem to have lost out to the likes of Rosario and Winker here.
  • Prospects Wood and Hassell probably up to get reps with their very-soon-to-be future teammates. Blankenhorn and Rutherford both hit well last year and re-signed; they’re good corner 1B/LF/DH type reserves to have in AAA.

Which of the rest of the NRIs might we see this year? We probably will see some of the RH relievers who stick around, its likely we get MLB debuts in 2024 from Crews, Wood, Lipscomb, maybe Baker.

Written by Todd Boss

March 27th, 2024 at 9:19 am

Posted in Nats in General

16 Responses to 'Spring Training 2024 NRI Disposition'

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  1. Bleier is a lefty

    Mick Reinhard

    27 Mar 24 at 10:04 am

  2. I don’t remember seeing any NRI lists that had Rutherford on them this year.


    27 Mar 24 at 7:48 pm

  3. Happy Opening Day! It’s supposed to be a day of hope, but ownership’s unwillingness to spend hasn’t left us with much. I fear that this squad will struggle to reach last year’s win total of 71. We’ll be fielding several guys who are good candidates for a future Todd update of “Nats to Oblivion.”

    It’s getting hard having to root for guys like Gallo, Winker, and Rosario to be good enough to trade. Most such trades bring little in return, although DJ Herz is looking like found gold thus far. And getting Lane Thomas in return for the corpse of Jon Lester remains a considerable heist. So you never know.

    The hope is in our prospects of course, at least the field players. I still don’t feel like we have enough pitching to get a full “rebuild” launched.


    28 Mar 24 at 8:56 am

  4. I still see Rutherford listed as a free agent. I didn’t understand why he got such a limited chance with the big club.

    If I were a AAA outfielder, I wouldn’t sign with the Nats with so many OF prospects in the pipeline.


    28 Mar 24 at 8:59 am

  5. On the bullpen front, I’m actually decently impressed with the players Rizzo has assembled. From a development perspective, it’s disappointing that this bullpen got significantly older than 2023’s. Ferrer, Willingham, Thompson and Ward, who were in the major league bullpen for a significant chunk of last season, are not to start this season, and each of those 4 is younger than every single pitcher in the ’24 bullpen, but 2 of them are currently injured and the other two didn’t exactly impress in ’23.

    However, from a talent perspective, there’s some interesting pieces here. For one, Harvey and Finnegan are two very good relievers. Assuming they don’t implode this season, we must trade them at the deadline, as their value will drop off significantly with each passing month. Based off the returns for relief pitching at the deadline last season, there’s high demand. David Robertson and Jordan Hicks, two good but not great relievers, had 2 months of control remaining when they was traded for a prospect return better than what we got for Jeimer Candelario. Harvey and Finnegan, though, still have a season and a half of control, which would cause their trade value to jump significantly. Kendall Graveman, who had 1.5 seasons of control, was traded for a fringe top 100 prospect.

    But in addition to Harvey and Finnegan, who themselves were NRIs/MiLB FAs, we’ve added a crop of experienced relief arms. As noted, Barnes, Floro, Bleier and Gsellman have solid pedigrees and past track records of success. While they, except perhaps Floro, don’t have the upside of Finnegan and Harvey, they do have some market value, if they could re-capture some of that past performance level. Even if just one of them puts together a good season, that’s could still yield a DJ Herz-like prospect return. And they aren’t – at the moment – really blocking any notable prospects.

    At the minor league level, this will be a clarifying year for a crop of talent just managing to reach the upper levels. Willingham’s meteoric rise saw him arrive a season earlier than the rest, but Knowles, Alvarez, Henry, Saenz, Parker, Herz, Ribalta, Sinclair, M. Perez, as well as re-treads in Ward, Rutledge, Adon, Willingham (all of whom will start the season at AA or AAA) will either rise to the occasion or quickly fade away as prospects, so the eventual bullpen (and hopefully 2 spots in the rotation too) firesale will clear space for the best performers to find space in the majors.

    Beyond the bullpen, I’m more skeptical about our OF. For one, Jacob Young, today, looks like a major league capable player, with potentially very good defense and baserunning skills and a potentially decent bat. Meanwhile, Eddie Rosario is a very poor defensive OF with an average bat. He’s the definition of replacement level, and as evidence by his demand on the free agent market this winter and the returns on mediocre outfield bats in past trade deadlines, other teams don’t place much value there. Remember, Rosario was traded in 2021 (when he was 3 years younger and closer to his better mid-20s season in Minnesota) for free (actually, for the corpse of Pablo Sandoval). For whatever reason, teams aren’t giving up much trade value for mediocre bats. Just look at the return on the best bat of the 2023 trade deadline: Jeimer Candelario, which yielded a similar return as several non-elite relievers.

    All that to say, I hope these AAAA signings are given a very short leash, particularly in positions where legit, but perhaps not elite, prospects are already ready. It will be extremely frustrating to watch Rosario bat .240/.289/.408 (his line over the past 2 seasons) with bad defense for DC, while Jacob Young bats .283/.368/.373 (his minor league line over the past 2 seasons) with good defense and elite baserunning in Rochester.


    28 Mar 24 at 9:43 am

  6. Rutherford: damn, I have him in my notes file as signed on 2/2/24 as a MLFA/NRI. But you guys are right; he’s still listed as a FA and certainly wasn’t on the NRI roster. That’s my bad; must have been a cut and paste error. I’ll correct.

    Bleier: thanks for correction; i’ve updated him on big board as being a lefty.

    Todd Boss

    28 Mar 24 at 10:24 am

  7. The corpse of Pablo Sandoval was actually in camp with the Giants this spring. He says that he will take a AAA assignment.


    28 Mar 24 at 10:29 am

  8. I don’t understand the excitement for Jacob Young. To me he’s Andrew Stevenson with fewer K’s but even less pop. He’s absolutely, positively gotten the most out of his talent, and I applaud him for that, but to me, his ceiling is a AAAA shuttle guy. As always, I’d be glad for him to prove me wrong. But my hunch is that when the hot-shot OF prospects start showing up, he’ll be left behind fairly quickly.

    Where have you gone, Matt den Dekker? Nats Nation turns its lonely eyes to you.


    28 Mar 24 at 10:57 am

  9. To me, the case for Jacob Young boils down to his CF defense. If you believe the scouts and his minor league history and the projections, it’s fine. If you believe the stats from his 30 games last year, it’s plus.

    Which is to say, the balance of probabilities is not on the side of hope here.

    Still, some hope is better than none, and I expect the emotional pull for Young is mostly from us being sick of Robles and deeply unimpressed with Rosario et al. (Though I’ll confess that I still have hope for Robles and am glad he’s getting a final opportunity.)

    Also, a CF-capable bench piece with good speed isn’t a bad player. Nice pull in the 7th round, actually. So some good vibes are definitely warranted.


    28 Mar 24 at 12:11 pm

  10. I definitely agree about Robles. I was on the train to non-tender him for a couple of years, but I hope he can continue his seeming resurgence. It’s shocking to realize that he’ll be a free agent after this season. This is his last chance to show the world that he can be a starter, although judging by this offseason, he may end up as an NRI somewhere on a minor-league contract.


    28 Mar 24 at 12:36 pm

  11. KLaw with Nats-only content from the Nats’ Futures Game (Athletic subscription):

    He still thinks Crews will make the majors before Wood and that Crews has bulked up. He’s not keen on Lipscomb, Rutledge (who had an awful day), or Herz. On the MLB side, he’s big on Gore and Abrams but doesn’t see any upside for Garcia. He left before Susana’s dominant inning.


    28 Mar 24 at 1:06 pm

  12. Law’s writeup was massive, putting a ton of thought into each of more than a dozen of our prospects.

    I would say he’s:
    – Positive about Woods, Crews, Abrams, Ribalta
    – Negative about Lipscomb, Hassell, Rutledge, Garcia, Herz
    – somewhere inbetween on: White, House, Made, Green, Susana

    Todd Boss

    28 Mar 24 at 1:08 pm

  13. Interesting opening day roster: Rosario in CF, not Robles.

    SS – Abrams
    RF – Thomas
    LF – Winker
    DH – Meneses
    1B – Gallo
    C – Ruiz
    CF – Rosario
    3B – Senzel
    2B – Garcia

    Starter: Josiah Grey

    Todd Boss

    28 Mar 24 at 2:38 pm

  14. Did I mention that the Nat don’t have enough pitching, particularly starting pitching? Yes, I know it was the Great American Bandbox. But Gray struggled in the spring as well (6.61 ERA, 1.96 WHIP, with lots of walks). Gray is one of the building blocks of the rebuild. The Nats really need him to be no worse than a #3 starter.



    28 Mar 24 at 9:37 pm

  15. Senzel hurt, Lipscomb up and presumably starts. Big board updated for MLB and now AAA roster, which was announced last night.

    Todd Boss

    29 Mar 24 at 8:50 am

  16. Go Trey! Make the most of the opportunity.


    29 Mar 24 at 11:39 am

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